Part of running a successful home-based business is being able to spread the word about your products and services. The easiest way to do this is to build a marketing plan. First you have to decide on a market to target, and then you have to provide a solution in the form of a product or service for that market.
Below are some tips on how to analyze and create a marketing plan:
Define your market: It is a rare case in marketing when a product has appeal to everyone regardless of sex, age, income level or special interests. The more typical case is that a product will appeal to a limited group of people who are willing to put down their hard-earned dollars to buy what you have to sell. The basic question to keep in mind as you develop your marketing plan is: Who would want to buy the type of product I make and how can I develop it to be saleable to these special people? Once you define your market, you often have to modify your product to fit that market.
Review the competition: Understanding what other products are on the market can help you develop a more effective position for your product. By analyzing the competition, you can gain valuable tips on the characteristics of products that will sell, the appropriate price level and the necessary promotions or price breaks you must periodically offer your customers to keep them interested in what you have to offer. You must view competition as not only a force to be overcome but an aid in your marketing efforts.
Find your niche: There's an old saying: “To lead, find out where people want to go and then hustle yourself around in front of them.” The man who started the McDonald's restaurant chain did this. So did the woman who founded Mary Kay Cosmetics. You can do this, too. But you have to keep your eyes and ears open, and a little luck now and then won't hurt. In marketing their products, managers in the corporate world realize one important truth — to get the edge on the competition, one must have a product that is perceived as different from all the others and one that fulfills the wants and needs of customers better than any other product. There are several ways to make your product distinctive. Common strategies are lower price, superior quality, greater convenience or faster service. What techniques you use depend on your product and your market.
Promote your product: Promotion involves advertising, publicity and personal contact. But keep in mind that you are not selling a product, you are selling what this product will do for people. A toothpaste company doesn't sell toothpaste so much as it sells sex appeal or lower dentist bills. A car company doesn't sell cars so much as it sells an image that a car will help provide its owner. Decide what your product will do for people. Then use this theme in your promotion.
Here are some ways to actually market your business and or product(s):
Word-of-mouth: This type of promotion is particularly valuable for a home-based business because it's free. Be sure the word passed is favorable. Be professional, prompt, meet deadlines, keep appointments and do not accept more work than you can deliver. One seamstress relies on this as her only means of advertising.
Business cards: A professionally printed card is an asset to almost any business. Include your name, address, phone number and products or services you provide. An attractive logo can also enhance the professional image you want to project. It's ideal to have a professional designer work with you in the design of your card.
Letterhead and envelopes: Printed letterheads show your customers that you are a professional business person. Use the same logo and design as is on your business card.
Brochures: A brochure can be well done and still relatively inexpensive, depending on the size, number of colors used and whether or not there are photographs. Get help from your printer and a professional designer/editor regarding layout text and lettering.
Direct mail: This technique can be valuable if you have the right mailing list. You have to know your market. At the start of a business, you may have to purchase mailing lists. This can be costly. Develop and systematize your own method for maintaining a mailing list. Keep track of customers' addresses.
Newspapers: Contact your local editors about the possibility of doing a news story and feature story on your new business. Pay attention to the types of stories carried in the newspaper. A news story would be pegged on the fact that it's a new business. A feature story on the other hand needs some kind of human interest angle. Give this some thought. Depending on your business, this may or may not be an option for you.
Radio and television news: Your local radio and television stations may also be interested in a news or feature angle. Also try to get yourself on any talk shows.
Newspaper ads: There are two types — display and classified. Display ads involve some design and artwork. Your newspaper advertising representative can help you with this. Or you may want to pay for the service of a professional advertising firm. Classified ads appear in the classified section and are much cheaper.
Magazine ads: Many magazines reach specialized audiences. Placing an ad, though expensive, in the right magazine may be all the advertising you ever need to do. There are local, regional and national magazines.
Portfolio: Put together a collection of your best work. Many people take photographs of every project. Include letters from satisfied customers.
Display at shows: If you're in the craft business, this may be a must. Only attend the shows that will bring you the type of business you want.
Other businesses: You may want to advertise at a business that is complementary to yours. For example a fabric store for alterations or a gourmet shop for cooking classes.
Telephone book: You may want to do this in the yellow pages as well as the white pages. There may be other directories in your locale you want to be listed in.
Specialties: You may want to offer matchbooks, pens, calendars, balloons, hats or other tokens of appreciation for doing business. Many of these items have long-term use and make good seasonal gifts.
Chamber of commerce: Joining the local chamber of commerce and other professional organizations is a good opportunity to make valuable contacts and participate in community activities. It also makes your business visible.
Always track what is working and how long you have been using which services. This makes it easy to tweak your marketing campaign where needed at any given time.
Do you have a solid business marketing plan or is this something you're just now getting into?